Canadian Down Syndrome Society Conference – Part 2

June 15, 2012

There were so many sessions of interest which made it very difficult to decide what to attend.  One speaker I was keen to see was Sara Bingham who presented “Enhancing Language and Lessening Frustration”.   Sara’s book The Baby Signing Book has been sitting in our kitchen for the past three years and is an oft-consulted resource in our home.  As our daughter is going to begin Junior Kindergarten soon, I was particularly interested in learning how signing can assist with literacy as the session description stated.

During the session we practiced signing the alphabet and I could immediately see how using signs would help children understand that the letters were all separate units.  Currently, when my daughter sings the alphabet, she can get up to K pretty well and then sings “La La La La La La P”.  The song is generally sung too quickly for our kids to pick up the individual sounds, but as Sara demonstrated in the session, when you sign the alphabet, you slow right down and target each letter.  We’ve been practicing a bit at home and I also think it’s an excellent exercise for fine motor skills.  It’s tricky putting little fingers into so many different positions, but it certainly helps with coordinating fine muscle movements.

With this renewed interest in signing, I also attended a session by Arleigh Luckett and Kristy Simons called “Potty Time – A Whole Body Approach to Toileting”.  Potty Time was created by the company Signing Time whose videos are among the favourites in our home. Toilet learning is a challenge for many kids with Down syndrome, and this program by Signing Time adds some interesting features for parents working with their children on this much-needed skill!

The DVD has many signs and songs related to using the potty, helping children to become familiar with the whole process. They also have a cool watch that children can wear and parents can set for 30, 60 or 90 minutes. At the designated time, a little song plays and children are cued in a fun way that it’s time to go and give the potty a try.  Using music is key so that parents are not nagging their children or giving instructions while the child is engaged in some other fun activity. Singing the potty song is a positive way to transition from one activity to a visit to the bathroom. 

We’re gearing up to start this in full force this summer.  When it takes a long time for children to learn to use the toilet, it can become a very negative and frustrating experience for both adults and children.  Hopefully with these songs and fun activities, it will become more positive even if we don’t have a lot of success right away. 

All in all attending the conference was a wonderful experience and it was fantastic to connect with other families from across Canada. There were some helpful vendors including Specs4Us ,which specializes in glasses for children with Down Syndrome; Monarch Books , the distributor for Woodbine House in Canada; representatives from Variety Village and various Down Syndrome organizations. Sadly we missed the closing banquet due to illness, but I’m sure this won’t be my last conference.  Next year it’s being held in Winnipeg….  it just might be time to pay our friends and relatives in Manitoba a visit!

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